Russian specialists at the Alabuga special economic zone in the republic of Tatarstan are assembling Iranian drones used to attack Ukraine, local reports claim.
The Iranian drone parts are labeled as "Belarusian boats," according to internal planning documents cited by Protokol and Razvorot independent media outlets. This local assembly of drones is being undertaken under a $1.3-$1.5 million contract signed between Moscow and Tehran.
Certain parts will eventually be manufactured in Russia, with the production process planned to be fully automated in the country over the next two to three years. Alabuga’s assembly plant reportedly spans 40,000 square meters — the size of six soccer fields. There are plans to expand the facility to over 100,000 square meters as the Russian-Iranian deal progresses.
More than 200 Russian experts allegedly traveled to Iran in March to learn how to assemble and adapt the drones.
In the same month, the Alabuga plant reportedly assembled around 70 Iranian Shahed loitering munitions, which would appear to corroborate a British MoD report that Russia launched “at least” 71 of the drones against Ukraine that month.
It was in November 2022 that The Washington Post first reported on the Russian-Iranian drone production deal, citing U.S. and Western intelligence. CNN then published a similar report citing intelligence from an unnamed country that closely monitors Iran’s weapons program.
The U.S. shared satellite images of Alabuga last month and expressed concerns that Tehran was planning to build a drone factory there, saying it could become operational in early 2024.
"We have information that Russia is receiving materials from Iran needed to build a UAV manufacturing plant inside Russia. This plant could be fully operational early next year," White House National Security Council (NSC) spokesman John Kirby had stated.